You know those pickled vegetables you like to eat with your steak and that aromatic wine you enjoy with the meal? Both of them are made through fermentation! The sweet, acidic taste they contain comes from the sugar present in the veggies and grapes, which is converted into alcohol.
There are various fermented food types, which include bean-based, grain-based, vegetable-based, fruit-based, honey-based, dairy-based, meat-based, fish-based and tea-based. The process of fermentation is not that complex and now that people know the “how” of it, they have started doing it at home.
What is Fermentation?
The science of fermentation is called zymurgy. It is a method where pre-digestion takes place when beneficial bacteria such as strains of biffidus or lactobacillus are naturally present. These bacteria break down the sugar and starch in food. When the bacteria divide, lactic acid is formed
and this stops bad bacteria from growing. Through this process, the food item gets that “acidic” or “tangy” taste.
In 1856, Louis Pasteur, a French chemist discovered that even if living yeast cells are not present, yeast extract can help with fermentation. This made the process of fermentation easier.
The process of fermentation dates back to 7000 B.C in Jiahu, in a Neolithic Chinese village. Back then, it was used to ferment plants. The first known product to be ever created through fermentation is wine and it dates back to 6000 B.C in Georgia. In fact, the oldest fermentation record that dates back to 7000 B.C. is empty jars of wine, which are on display in the University of Pennsylvania. These jars were excavated from Iran, from the Zagros Mountains. Other countries that followed suit were Sudan in 1500 B.C., Ancient Egypt, in 3150 B.C., Babylon in 3000 B.C. and pre-Hispanic Mexico in 2000 B.C.
Use of Fermented Foods
As you know that fermentation involves the use of microorganisms in the making and preservation of food and drinks therefore, it is limited to these two categories. The 5 main purposes of food fermentation are:
1. Enrich diet by developing different flavors, textures and aromas in food substances
2. Preserve food through alcohol, lactic acid, alkaline fermentation and acetic acid
3. Eliminate anti-nutrients
4. Develop food substrates with essential amino acids, protein and vitamins
5. Reduce the use of fuel and cooking time
Fermented foods such as yoghurt and wine are also used to make face packs, DIY hair products and moisturizing creams.
Following are the names of few microorganisms that are used to make basic items on the food chain:
Benefits of Fermentation
Boosts Immune System
Fermented foods like Tempeh, miso and kefir provide nutrients such as antioxidants that strengthen your immunity. Moreover, they offer protection against bacteria and keep the body healthy.
Maintains Healthy Intestine
Changing seasons can cause problems for gut health. For this reason, many people take probiotics supplements. If you are looking for a natural source of probiotics, then fermented food is the best option. They form a lining in the intestine, which protects it from certain factors including salmonella and E. coli. This promotes digestion.
Enriched with calcium, fermented foods help improve your bones. Food items such as fermented raw cheese, buttermilk and yoghurt promote bone density and prevent osteoporosis.
Aid in Weight Loss
Fermented foods suppress appetite and since they contain no sugar or cholesterol, you can consume them in large portions.
Good Source of Fiber
Fermented food offers an adequate amount of Vitamins, especially Vitamin B-12. The body absorbs more nutrients from fermented food which aids in digestion and prevents burning and inflammation. It helps metabolize fatty oils, carbs and protein faster which prevent excess storage of fat.
Increases Body Energy
Certain fermented food items provide boatloads of nutrients such as Kombucha, which has plenty of B Vitamins. Vitamin B-1, B-2 and B-6 give plenty of energy and helps fight factors behind the lethargy.
Fermented foods offer many benefits for the body and skin, which not only help you remain physically fit but also allow you to provide your skin with nourishing essentials. So, start incorporating them into your meals to stay healthy.
Lacto-Fermented Mixed Pickles
A little bit of this and a little bit of that, put the jar in a cupboard and forget it for a few days – This is how fermented pickles are made. You can make this tangy, crisp and finger-licking recipe at home in just a few days or at most, a week.
Prep Time Cook Time Ferment Time Total Time Servings
10 minutes 10 minutes 3 d
* Water: 1 quart
* Sea salt: 3 teaspoons (14.5 mg sodium)
* Small cauliflower florets: 1 cup (180 gm)
* Carrot chunks: 1 cup (64 gm)
* Red bell pepper slices: 1 cup (149 gm)
* Garlic clove (smashed): 1
* Bay leaf: 1
* Coriander seeds: ½ teaspoon
* Black peppercorns: ¼ teaspoon
* Grape leaves: 1-2
* Combine water and salt, and mix until the salt dissolves
* Place all the ingredients in a Mason jar and pour salt water in it (leave 1 inch of space at the top)
* Close the jar and leave it at room temperature
* Check once every day and taste the pickles to see if they have come to your desired taste (it might take a minimum of 3 days and maximum 1 week)
* Once the pickles are ready, place the jar in a refrigerator